“People come and wake me at 10 and 12 o’clock… and 2 o’ clock in the morning. and say something is wrong…if I could weld something for them, and I would do it without a fuss.”
By Leon Suseran
This week the spotlight is on a man of amazing courage and deep determination. He is a 57-year-old engineer who has defied the odds associated with him being confined to a wheelchair at the age of 24, following a horrific motorcycle accident. Instead of playing the victim to life’s hardships, he has used his situation for the betterment of himself, his wife, and numerous school drop-outs whom he has trained over the years.
This is the journey of Rohan Doodnauth, who though he faced the wrath of gunmen on two occasions, as they pounced on his welding-shop, refused to give up and close down the business. Instead, his words to the bandits echoed a call for them to turn up at his machine shop for him to teach them “a skill or two”. EARLY YEARS Rohan was born at Lot 45, Palmyra Village, East Canje, Berbice, to Mr. and Mrs. Doodnauth Mayers; his dad, employed with Demerara Oxygen Company Limited (DOCOL), and his mom, a seamstress. He attended the Sheet Anchor Primary School, and then the Overwinning School where he attained his secondary education. He described growing up in Palmyra as, “very quiet and enjoyable.” “We played in the rice fields in the back.” His aspiration after completing school was to become involved with the sugar industry. This inbred desire to become a mechanic was realized after he commenced his apprenticeship with the then Bookers’ Sugar Estate’s Port Mourant Training School in 1974. He was just 17. In 1976, he gained employment at the Rose Hall Estate where he worked until the completion of his apprenticeship in 1979, attaining the status of Grade 2 Engineer. In 1981, he was quickly promoted to Engineer/Foreman in the sugar factory. “We weren’t quarreling about wages in those times– Rose Hall [Estate] used to make 2,000 tonnes of sugar per week– and I was in charge of the maintenance department.” He worked alongside an engineer, Norman Satrohan Persaud, “the most brilliant man that I ever met in my life so far–presently he is a Director at GPL.” He said Persaud was one of his role models as he worked in the sugar industry. Those were “the glorious days”. And then it all came to a screeching halt. ACCIDENT Whilst riding a motorcycle along the Borlam Turn on the Number 19 Highway in 1983, Doodnauth was involved in an accident. He suffered a spinal injury as a result. He was discharged from his duties and was confined to home. When asked how the accident affected him and his career goals and pursuits, Doodnauth mentioned that it, “initially affected” him, but it was how he handled things from thereon that really brought out a new man. He said that he initially became depressed but could not allow himself to “waste away like that”. But reality then started to sink in, “and I just had to put the reality in front of me, and realized that I had to cope with it.” It was as if God was sending a messenger to bring hope and comfort to Doodnauth in the person of the late Proprietor of the Church View International Hotel and popular New Amsterdam businessman, Mr. Ram Bhookmohan, with whom Doodnauth shared a close friendship. LIFE AFTER THE ACCIDENT Previously visited by Mr. Rhyle Sookraj as well as Bhookmohan with a hamper during Christmastime, he refused to accept the offerings as he thought he was being pitied. “I was sort of despondent,” he reflected. Bhookmohan returned the following day and advised Doodnauth to open a machine shop. “He said that I had the skills to teach little boys.” Bhookmohan even pledged to purchase the first piece of equipment welded and made by Doodnauth’s machine shop, “and he did buy a tank.” Doodnauth opened a small workshop at his father’s Palmyra location. “I started without a penny as they say….from scratch, humble.” He employed a 17-year-old deaf-mute lad and another teen from the area. He then met his wife in 1997, while visiting the local National Insurance Scheme (NIS) office in New Amsterdam. She was the physiotherapist. “I used to go there for therapy and we became friends.” He fondly remembers his wedding day. “It was a private affair…just another day.” After tying the knot, they moved to Number 11 Village, the present location where the machine shop stands. TRAINING SCHOOL-AGED DROP-OUTS Over the years, Doodnauth has opened his machine shop where he is actively engaged in the training of school-aged drop-outs. He has trained over twelve young men, for free, in collaboration with the Board of Industrial Training (BIT). He trained twelve in 2012 and eight in 2013; he supplied them with all the tools and equipment they needed, of course imparted the skills, and even paid them weekly stipends. However, he is quite disappointed in the fact that the BIT has apparently ended skills training done by private individuals such as himself. “They say they (young men) have to go to GuySuCo…I believe that’s rubbish.” He even raised the issue with the BIT, but to no avail. Most of the young boys he trained over the years have embarked on high-flying careers with GuySuCo and Oldendorff Carriers, among other noteworthy establishments. LIVING IN FEAR WITH DISABILITY The ‘Special Person’ claims that on several occasions, he made contact with the National Disability Commission (NDC), “but like nobody ever come around; check you out and see what you are doing–nobody, nobody– very sad.” He is aware of the existence of organizations such as these and the initiatives out there to monitor and assist persons with disabilities such as himself, but he insists he has never seen or heard from anyone from any of those organizations. Currently, Doodnauth is seen on a daily basis by a private nurse who performs checks on his general health. He purchases all of his medication as well. Doodnauth has been a victim of gunmen who invaded his premises twice, the most recent occasion being in June. “I don’t know how often in the world, people will attack a man in a wheelchair and rob him–but there is a God– we don’t hurt anybody.” But he stated that he is not afraid of the attackers, who happen to have shot one of their own dead during one of the attacks. To date, police are still hunting the two that escaped from the crime scene. After the most recent incident, which traumatized his employees and wife, he was forced to erect two large lamps around his backyard. MUCH SOUGHT-AFTER The workshop today has become one that is much sought-after and utilized by many persons across Berbice and also around the country. Metal fabrication is done; steel bolts; pumps; caddy tankers are all fabricated at the machine shop. Jobs are sourced from as far as Crabwood Creek, Mahaicony, Black Bush Polder, Canje, Mara, and Suriname. Doodnauth sees his business as one beyond its economic gains as he assists persons with jobs, sometimes as late as midnight and wee hours in the morning. “People come and wake me at 10 and 12 o’clock… and 2 o’ clock in the morning. and say something is wrong…if I could weld something for them, and I would do it without a fuss.” But he gets ultimate satisfaction from the work he has been doing over the years. “I remember an incident when a guy woke me up– he was fitting a well for somebody and the thing break away. My wife was afraid for my safety.” But Doodnauth left his bed during the wee hours of the morning since he believed that the man must have really been in need. “And when I done weld the thing at 4 o’ clock in the morning, I didn’t take any money from him.” QUITE ACTIVE Doodnauth is quite active in his machine shop these days as well. Apart from giving the technical advice, he insists that he is involved in the making of the impellers, etc. His day starts at 08:00 hrs and sometimes ends after 22:00 hrs. He also leaves his machine shop and is in the fields, visiting clients, measuring their equipment (which he prefers to do himself) as well as shopping for materials. To better cater for his circumstances, Doodnauth’s bedroom is self- contained so that he can move easily around. He describes the support of his wife, Premwattie, as “super”. CONCERNED ABOUT THE YOUTHS Doodnauth is particularly concerned about the quality of technical training offered to youths, especially in the mechanical and technical industries across the country. Monies and resources, he opined, can be spent more wisely by developing better training packages, targeting high school drop-outs and slow learners. Doodnauth is proud and satisfied with his accomplishments in this regard over the years. “The happiness and sense of good feelings you get when you see these little boys that you train, go out and perform, you get good comments from people who employ them– you feel more than satisfied for that. I will continue to freely give of myself.” Rohan Doodnauth’s story is one of determination, that drives home the message that a person can achieve things in life, despite physical setbacks, and can help others achieve too.
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